Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Schiavo case trial transcripts available on-line

I am blogging this in multiple places to bring it to the attention of the Google bots for searching researchers. My thanks to Zippy who has put it up on his blog.

I have just finished an article for the forthcoming issue of The Christendom Review on some legal aspects of the Terri Schiavo case. In the course of doing research for it, I managed (by dint of much and persistent e-mailing) to get hold of the trial transcripts of all the witness testimony in the Schiavo case. As far as I have been able to tell, these transcripts are not available elsewhere on-line.

Because people will be studying and discussing Terri Schiavo's death (murder, I would say) for many years to come, it seems to me extremely important that the witness testimony be available. The judge's job was to decide that there was "clear and convincing evidence" that Terri would have wanted to be dehydrated to death. Judge Greer's opinion is on-line here. (Greer's opinion, unlike the testimony transcripts, has been available on-line all along.)

Greer's opinion does not quote the witness testimony he is using. He just alludes to it, sometimes extremely vaguely, and sometimes even erroneously. News stories usually contain only bits and pieces, and their sources are unclear.

Greer dismissed Diane Meyer's testimony on the basis of his erroneous belief that Karen Ann Quinlan died before 1982. It is interesting to see how Meyer stands up to George Felos, the opposing attorney, who tries to put words into her mouth and confuse her. She did an especially good job given that Felos apparently succeeded in temporarily convincing everyone at Terri's trial that Quinlan actually died in 1976 when her ventilator was removed. In fact, she lived until 1985.

On my personal web page I now have

--A PDF scan of the testimony transcript of Diane Meyer
--A PDF scan of the testimony transcript of Scott Schiavo
--A PDF scan of the testimony transcript of Joan Schiavo
--A complete transcript of all the witness testimony, including the testimony of Michael Schiavo and Mrs. Schindler, in a web page html form.

These five were the witnesses who claimed to have had conversations with Terri about end-of-life issues.

I owe the Diane Meyer transcript directly to Pat Anderson, one of the Schindlers' lawyers. I owe the complete transcript to Atty. Joe Bell, who took a PDF that he had from Pat Anderson and made a careful project of translating it into searchable text.

My hope is that now when people search "Schiavo" and "trial transcripts," "Diane Meyer," and other such phrases, they will have more luck than I did in finding these important documents on-line.



Scott W. said...

I wonder if the Terri Schiavo foundation would be interested in those.

Lydia McGrew said...

I should probably tell them that I found them and have them on-line. I wrote to the foundation looking for the transcripts initially, and I got some very nice e-mails back from Mr. Schindler, Sr., himself. He sent me an excellent article by a guy named O. Carter Snead that had some quotations from the transcripts, but he (Mr. Schindler) didn't have a really good idea of how I could get an electronic copy of the transcripts themselves.

I e-mailed Snead and got, from him, the idea of writing to Pat Anderson, only he didn't have her e-mail. So I googled 'n' googled and eventually found an on-line lawyer contact form for her. (Lawyers evidently do this to protect their personal e-mails.) E-mailed her and did eventually hear back from her. At that point it was the Meyer transcript I wanted most, so that was what I asked for. She sent me that and a transcript of the testimony of a friend of Terri's named Jackie Rhodes, but I haven't put that one up separately, because Rhodes wasn't one of the "crucial five" who claimed to have talked with Terri about end-of-life issues.

During this time, before I heard back from Pat Anderson, I was googling and e-mailing anybody I could think of to try to get the Meyer transcript, and I found another lawyer form for someone named Joseph Bell who had written a paper on the Schiavo case and seemed to be indicating in his footnotes that he had the transcripts. So I sent him a note on the lawyer form, and eventually he wrote back and told me that he had the _entire_ witness testimony and had been trying to get the text layer isolated out from the PDF. Just a few days ago he wrote me again and told me I "inspired" him to finish that project (though I hadn't asked him to do it), and he sent me the entire thing in a text form and was very happy to post it on-line.

There are advantages to both forms. The html version is searchable, though you have to restrict yourself to just searching for a single word or a two-word phrase at the most, because the lines are broken up and numbered, and the search engine gets confused by the intervening line numbers. The three PDF's are not searchable, but they isolate just that person's testimony in a chunk of a more readable length.

Anyway, I really should e-mail Mr. Schindler and tell him that I found the material and have made it available. Thanks for reminding me.

Lydia McGrew said...

I should say, Joe Bell was very happy for it _to be_ posted on-line (by me).